Every since I was willing to admit that I have gotten older I have noticed a slight issue. If I sit too long, my ankles have a tendency to swell. Not normal “sitting around the house or at the computer sitting” but more like the “drive the car 12 hours including the ferry” or “be trapped in an airplane seat for 9+ hours” kind of sitting.
I used to feel sorry for all those old ladies with the puffy ankles and wondered why they didn’t take better care of themselves. Now my judgmental attitude has come back to haunt me. Swollen ankles could be a sign of heart disease or kidney failuere – true but for most people it simply means that there is fluid leaking out of their capillaries.
Read a decent physiology text relating to atmospheric pressure and you will discover that third spacing is common at higher elevations. Now 31K+ feet in a plane certainly qualifies. Yes, the cabins are pressurized but not to sea level. The average person third spaces about 100ml an hour while up in the air. A nine hour flight translates into almost a liter of fluid for someone of my size. Easy to see why, even without poor circulation or varicose veins, the ankles might just get a bit fat. (side note here – weigh yourself as soon as possible after getting off that long distance flight and then again the next day. Go ahead – take credit for the weight loss…..).
Deciding to do something about the above mentioned problem – I purchased a decent pair of knee high support stockings while in Berkeley. My ankles did fine on the train from Berkeley to Idaho. Thinking that the train was only a test of sitting (without all that much in elevation changes since no railroads in the US really travel that far above sea level as compared to even a pressurized aircraft cabin) and that the flight from Portland to Phoenix was too short to count I needed another test. Phoenix to Houston was 2 3/4 hours but the six hours between flights provided by the delay sort of leveled out any effect. Now Houston to Frankfurt was over nine hours.
I am pleased to report that my ankles are fine. A few ridges from the ribbing on my calves but otherwise I no longer am imitating a 95 year old with cankles. Doesn’t mean I didn’t third space that fluid, just that my lower legs were no longer the problem. My arms were ok and my face wasn’t puffy. It is a good thing I was wearing a blazer. First time ever that I have had a problem snapping my jeans by the end of a flight. Or maybe I can blame the combination of fluid retention and gas expansion for the pressure around my waist.
It all has to go somewhere – right?
(who was back to her preflight weight this morning. Maybe this is something like getting back to pre-pregnancy weight only easier as it is fairly painless, can be done over and over without having to plan for future college bills?